Jayne McAllister

Travel Wellness Expert and Author


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30 Tips for Staying Slim and Sane Through the Holidays: Part 10

Holiday Survival Tip #23: Eat mindfully

Just how much are you eating mindlessly?

Just how much are you eating mindlessly?

Another one that we’ve heard before but we’re all guilty of it.  When was the last time you watched TV or read a book while eating?  And at this most wonderful time of the year when you’re glued to the telly watching Miracle on 34th Street and sobbing your eyes out, you definitely won’t notice how many cookies you’re eating.  The longer you watch TV while eating, the more you will eat.

Brian Wansink in his fabulous book, “Mindless Eating,” tells that people who watch TV for an hour while eating will eat 28% more than those who watch and eat for half an hour.  In this case, it was popcorn and carrots.  What they were eating really didn’t make much difference.

Holiday Survival Tip #24: Distract Yourself When Eating Between Meals

If you’re eating between meals, ask yourself if you’re really hungry or just looking for something to do.  The whole concept of eating five or six times per day is a relatively new, American concept.  Traditionally people have eaten three squares and been quite satisfied.  Then the snack food industry came along and changed all that.

Before you reach for the peppermint bark, sugar cookies or eggnog ice cream, go for a walk around the block, call a friend or play with your Holiday train set.  By keeping your mind occupied, you’ll forget about eating.

One of the same Brian Wansink’s friends commented to him how he lost 30 pounds within a year by eating anything he wanted.  The trick, apparently, was that if he had a craving when he wasn’t hungry, he would say out loud, “I’m not hungry but I’m going to eat this anyway.”  Apparently declaration a voce alta was enough to deter him.  Try it and see!

Holiday Survival Tip #25: Take a dance break.

Get up and dance!

Get up and dance!

I think Christmas is about celebration and, come on, on the inside everyone wants to dance.” TobyMac.

This is the one time of the year that we’re bound to boogie.  If the thought of dancing the night away at the office party isn’t your thing, then I strongly recommend closing the curtains, turning up Mariah and truly dancing like no one’s watching because they’re not.  If you have a dog or cat witnessing you access your inner Lady Gaga, reassurances and treats might be in order afterwards.

Dancing uplifts your energy and mood, burns a ton of calories, and puts you in the festive spirit.  It’s also a good distraction tactic (see tip #24, above).  This time of year is a free for all, so go for it.

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30 Tips for Staying Slim and Sane Through the Holidays: Part 9

Holiday Survival Tip #20: Re-gift the chocolate

Christmas is a stocking stuffed with sugary goodness.” Mo Rocca

Portrait of beautiful young girl with chocolate cupcakeRe-gift?  Are you joking? Okay, within reason.  A box of Godiva’s new line in truffles is one thing but your fifth box of Russell Stover’s is another. Keep a little quality goodness for when it’s needed and donate the rest to a homeless shelter or food bank.  Spread the cheer to those who don’t have as much.  You’ll feel really good and look really good inside and out.

Holiday Survival Tip #21: Fat, fiber, protein at every meal.

Qué?  One of the secrets to not overeating is to balance your nutrients.  Does this mean counting calories, fat and carb grams?  No.  Making food about numbers creates food obsessives.  Combining the right foods at each meal makes for a satisfied body and mind, and fewer cravings and overeating.

Aim for good fats (nuts, avocadoes, oily fish, olive oil); quality protein (lean meats, fish, organic eggs and legumes), and fiber (vegetables and fruits).  For more information about balancing foods, give me a shout at info@jaynemcallister.com.

Holiday Survival Tip #22: Don’t give up when you get derailed

On December 13th you over indulge at a party.  That’s it, you say.  I’m done. I have no control.  I may as well wait until January 1st.  And since when did one little lapse make anyone a failure?  Time to pick yourself up, stand tall and carry on.  What would make you happier right now? Wandering down the path of self-destruction or picking up where you left off?  Every little step you take now is going to take off the pressure on January 1st (we’ll talk about that later).


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30 Tips for Staying Slim and Sane Through the Holidays: Part 8

Holiday Survival Tip #17: Journal

Typically, the only people who lose weight during the Holidays are journaling.  Research has proven this. So, grab yourself a notebook, a pretty journal, the back of your grocery list or a cocktail napkin but do it!  And no sugar coating.   People tend to write down only the good so be sure to write down everything you eat and drink each day.  You’re starting to be accountable to yourself and you’ll be able to identify patterns, such as reaching for the cookie jar at 4 PM or late night snacking.

Journaling is a wonderful way to gain insight into your relationship with food.  Try it for three days, then see if you want to continue.  You might be intrigued by what you learn about yourself.

Holiday Survival Tip #18: Avoid the Cheese Appetizers

“Nothing says Holidays like a cheese log.” Ellen

A little dinner with your cheese?

A little dinner with your cheese?

I’ve never quite got my head around the habit of serving cheese and crackers BEFORE a meal rather than following the European custom of serving it afterwards. In the latter case, a smaller amount suffices because one is already satiated.  The cheese can even be eaten with a knife and fork so that its full flavor is appreciated.

What about having an entire melted Brie with half a baguette just before dinner?  Nope. Plus, let’s face it, most people are serving squares of processed cheese with trans-fat laden crackers. When you have cheese as an appetizer, you’re filling up on saturated fat so you’ll be sated but your arteries will not love you. Cheese is one of life’s great pleasures but it is meant to be savored and appreciated in small portions.

Holiday Survival Tip #19: Take time each day to de-stress

Christmas stress shopping womanBut I’m not stressed,” you protest. Well, if you’re the only person who can get through the entire Holiday season without an iota of stress, give me a call and you can write this section next year.  Who knows what can set stress in motion?  A little angst about pulling together a fabulous meal; the dog eating the pumpkin pie (as happened at our Thanksgiving); the juice for the gravy accidentally getting soapy water in it (as happened at our Thanksgiving); seeing an unpopular relative for the first time in ages; worrying that people won’t like their gifts; or the turkey not being cooked (as happened to me the first two times I made Christmas dinner for large parties).

This is the time of year when we give in to the irrational. The smallest incident can escalate, inflate and blow out of proportion. (I know those are synonymous – I’m making sure you’re paying attention). Take time each day to step back, enjoy the peace and quiet, and reflect on what’s going well.  Even ten minutes will make a difference.  If matters start heating up or becoming overwhelming, excuse yourself and retire to a “safe place,” a quiet spot where you can regroup.

And just think, you won’t have to deal with this again for approximately 11 months.


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30 Tips for Staying Slim and Sane Through the Holidays: Part 6

Holiday Survival Tip #11: Remember How Many Days There Are Between Thanksgiving and New Year

People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas,” unknown.

There are 33 days between Thanksgiving and New Year. Do you really want to let go for a twelfth of your year?  You can stay on track through the holiday period like you have for the rest of the year.  The odd splurge and fabulous dinner are, of course, allowed.  Throwing caution to the wind is not.

Holiday Survival Tip #12:  Get Enough Sleep

The relationship between weight management and sleep is underrated.  For a start, if you feel rested and have enough energy, chances are you won’t be reaching for pick-me-ups (usually sugar and caffeine) at all hours of the day.

Secrets to getting a good night’s sleep:

  • Don’t eat too late (post 8 PM).  The liver goes to work sorting out your system between 10 PM and 2 AM.  Help it out by not eating too late and you’ll avoid indigestion.
  • Don’t drink too much.  The second glass of wine inevitably leads to a 4 AM internal wake-up call.  Trust me, I know.  Without vino, I sleep for 9 glorious, uninterrupted hours.
  • Start cutting back on liquids in the evening so you don’t have to get up to go to the bathroom during the night.  Drink most of your water in the morning to rehydrate and the early part of the afternoon to keep you going and to stave off hunger.

Holiday Survival Tip #13: Keep The Unhealthy Stuff Out of Sight

FeiernOut of sight is truly out of mind.  While that might not be good for the love of your life, it’s perfect for the inevitable influx of candies and cookies that should be starting to head your way about now. If you’re not going to re-gift them, stick them in the back of a cupboard where you have to make an effort to get them when you really want them.  If they’re in plain sight, that’s an invitation to mindless eating.

Finally, how the heck are you doing with these tips?  Do let me know in the comments below.


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30 Tips for Staying Slim and Sane Through the Holidays: Part 3 (Alcohol and Dessert)

Today we have two sensitive but aptly timed topics for the Eve of Thanksgiving.

Holiday Survival Tip #4: Watch the Wining

Glasses with champagne on shiny backgroundWe’ve all heard that it’s wise to have a glass of water for every alcoholic drink we consume.  This is true for many reasons.  It will help you stay hydrated, slow down the entry of alcohol into the bloodstream, and make you look prettier in the morning. (No red eyes, bags under the eyes or wrinkly dehydrated skin).  My question to you then, is do you actually do it? I know I forget sometimes.  So what can you do to make sure you follow through for yourself?

Make your first drink a soft one in a fancy glass.  Sparkling water works well in a wine glass or a rocks glass.  That way you’re off to a good start.  If you’ve read my previous blogs, you haven’t arrived starving and you have the presence of mind sans alcohol to not go nuts over hors d’oeuvres.

After a glass of water or two, you can sip on a glass of champagne or a cocktail.  Soda water should be the mixer of choice.  The perils of regular soda or diet soda can be saved for another day, so trust me on this.  Nurse and appreciate your beverage so that it lasts.

Keeping your pre-prandial liquor intake light means you won’t be diving for the bread basket or overindulging at dinner.  I’m adamant about enjoying wine with food so wait until your meal has been served before you have a glass and make sure you continue to have a glass of water or two for each glass of wine.

Savoring and appreciating your beverage should mean fewer empty calories.  My inner wine snob would also recommend that, if you’re cutting back consumption, go for better quality.  Remember, “Life is too short to drink cheap wine.”

Holiday Survival Tip #5:  Deal With Dessert

Christmas Buche de Noel cakeOh the cruelty of it!  This is the time of pecan pie and pumpkin pie in the USA, mince pies and Christmas pudding in the UK, and bûche de Noël in France.  How could I have the audacity to say that a sliver of dessert is all you need.    But really, it is. We “need” a few tastes to satisfy our sweet tooth.   Savoring and enjoying a few bites will go a lot further than wolfing down a whole plateful.

Now, we all know that if you ask for your server or hostess for a small portion, they’ll smile benignly at you while piling a veritable mountain onto your plate.  In this case, you have three bites and be done.  Savor them.  Relish them and count them.  Then let it go.  Similarly, if your host is absolutely insistent that you have some of their famous pie or cake, tell them you’re more stuffed than the turkey but you’ll gladly take a piece to enjoy later.  Do not put it in your fridge. Do not eat it in the car before you arrive home. Ditch it discreetly as soon as you are able.


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30 Tips for Staying Slim and Sane Through the Holidays: Part 2

Continuing my series of tips for surviving this time of year without putting on weight or going completely batty.

Holiday Survival Tip #3: Pass on the Passed Hors d ’Oeuvres

Holiday appetizerHappy hours and cocktail parties with passed hors d’oeuvres before dinner represent a huge landmine for anyone trying to avoid excess poundage.  Hopefully you read yesterday’s blog (if not you can see it here) and you’re not showing up hungry.  This will stop you from rugby tackling the servers or embarrassing yourself after two martinis on an empty stomach.

Even if you have duly prepared for the event, there still lurks the danger of mindless eating as the hors d’oeuvres circle around you. We’re often chatting or engaging with others while we nibble distractedly so we don’t notice that we’re about to have our tenth mini quiche or fifth pig in a blanket.

This brings me to my next point; hors d’oeuvres tend to be high fat, high calorie foods. No one is passing around little plates of salad. I was at a party recently where the hors d’oeuvres were mini-beef burger sliders and corn fritters.  Imagine consuming a bunch of those before dinner! Before you know it, you’ve eaten the equivalent of a whole dinner just in appetizers.  If you’re having cocktails with your hors d’oeuvres and planning on wine with dinner, that will add another meal’s worth of calories to your intake. Right now you’re up to three meals: hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and wine, and your actual dinner. And the January 1st diet is still weeks away. Here are three steps you can take right now:

  • Make it easier on yourself and your waistline by limiting yourself to three items.  Remember, you’re having dinner after.  If you’re not and you’re a fan of what my husband calls the bachelor buffet, put your food on one plate at the same time, as if it were a dinner, otherwise you’ll eat two or three plates of food without realizing.
  • Practice saying “No thank you” so you’ll be ready when the trays come sweeping by.  You don’t have to keep eating.  Stand up and keep your drink or a glass of water in your hand.  That way you don’t have enough hands to manage food as well.  Once you sit down, there’s no telling how much you’ll eat because space and dexterity aren’t issues.
  • Focus on the company and engaging with people and let the food take a back seat so you’ll still have room for dinner.  Bon appetit!


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30 Tips For Staying Slim and Sane Through The Holidays, Part 1

christmas partyWell here we are, on the precipice of the official start to the Holidays, despite what Target and Wal-Mart have led us to believe since late August.   “They” are here.  Thanksgiving for Americans and Hanukkah for my Jewish friends, melded this year into a hybrid Thanksgivukkah .  Meanwhile, Christmas is just four weeks away. Ooh, wait!  There are parties in between!

This is the time of year when we work ourselves up into a sweat without setting foot in a gym.  The “glow” is a nervous reaction to the thought of eating and drinking ourselves up two sizes.  Mentally, the gate opens, the horse bolts and it sure as heck doesn’t look back.  For those who are still struggling with summer holiday weight gain, the spiral continues.  And then there’s the stress of it all: shopping for the right gifts; the gatherings; the family members we’d rather not see; the office party; the guy from three cubicles over who always asks you to dance too many times; running to the bathroom to avoid slow dancing with said would-be suitor; the potential for family disputes; pretending to like Aunt Beatrice’s tougher-than-cardboard pecan pie.

It’s all too much.  So this year, my Holiday gift to you is 30 or more tips on how to stay slim and stress free for the next month or so.  I’ll be delivering two or three tips per day over the next couple of weeks so you can sail through the season with grace, poise and confidence.  Let’s get started.

Holiday Survival Tip #1: Eat Before You Go

A little snack with fiber, protein and good fat before you head to the party, will stop you from overeating on the dark side.

A little snack with fiber, protein and good fat before you head to the party, will stop you from overeating on the dark side.

Er, Jayne, I’m going to a party and there’s going to be food so why would I eat beforehand?

Showing up ravenous will have you rushing up the middle to score a touchdown at the buffet table. Nothing will be out-of-bounds.  Time-out!  Let’s think about this.  If you have lunch at noon or 1 PM, it’s unreasonable to expect to last through cocktail hour until dinner.  A snack with fiber, fat and protein will tide you over and keep your brain on track so you can make smart decisions about what to eat once you’re at the event.  Good snack choices would be hummus with vegetable crudités, lean protein with a green salad dressed with olive oil and lemon juice, or a cup of bean or lentil soup.

Holiday Survival Tip #2: Go In With A Plan.

Whether you’re heading to a party or a sit-down meal, take a moment to confer with your inner Norman Schwarzkopf.  This could be Operation DESSERT Storm.  You need a battle plan.  There are going to be ambushes and saboteurs everywhere.  What’s your intention?  Are you going to skip the champagne and enjoy a small serving of dessert instead?  Are you going to pile your plate with salad and veggies before sampling the “other” stuff?  Are you going to get on the dance floor or pull up a chair to the buffet table?

Formulate your plan. Write it on a Post-it and stick it on your bathroom mirror.  Repeat your intention as you apply your make-up (okay, Guys, you can do this while you shave).  Stick to your strategy and reward yourself with a soak in the tub or a chick-flick (or World War II movie) when you get home.  You will have won the battle and you’ll be on your way to winning the war.